Ensuring A Successful Corporate Facebook Presence


This contributed article for Mediapost originally ran on March 22, 2010

Not surprisingly, it’s difficult to find a large brand that isn’t at least thinking about how it can participate in social networking phenom Facebook. With over 400 million members, Facebook teases with an audience that is nearly four times greater than that of the Super Bowl… every day. Unfortunately, many brands are finding that there is a big difference between setting up a fan page and creating a meaningful presence that attracts real customer engagement.

The single biggest point of failure according to my colleague, Kevin Tate, principal of StepChange, is an unwillingness to follow the four golden rules of creating a successful Facebook presence. Kevin knows a thing or two about this topic, as he has worked with nearly 100 brands to create meaningful Facebook presences in a world where many have failed.

The four golden rules of creating a successful Facebook presence are fairly straightforward, but to rush straight to stage four is where companies typically fall down.

  1. Strategy – Before you start building, there are a few things to think about. For instance, who do you want to talk to? What do you want to talk to them about? What do you want them to do? Figuring these questions out up front will help ensure a successful step two.
  2. Presence – With most companies, creating a solid presence requires creating one or more fan pages with several tabs. This is the “getting the house in order” step. Presence can be a difficult step, as this step requires patience while you build your following.
  3. Activation – This is the “what do you want them to do” part. A brand can have all the fans on Facebook, but what’s the value of a fan just sitting there? Activation is the “what do you want them to do” portion of building a fan page. Real value is when a fan is doing something for you outside of being just another follower.
  4. Amplification – This is more of an outcome than a stage, but if you have the right presence and you’ve done your activation, amplification should allow you to tap your Facebook presence to amplify or build on current campaigns, in-store promotions and other marketing activities.

A good example of a company that has done a great job building out its Facebook presence, with a little over 1.1 million fans, is Dunkin’ Donuts. The company has a “fan of the week,” where it highlights that fan in its profile picture. In addition, fans celebrate promotions that are going on in the different tabs where they can dunk themselves in chocolate, design their own donut (leading to hundreds of thousands of likes and comments by fans) and even upload photos taken in stores or with Dunkin’ Donuts products.

Unfortunately, for every Dunkin’ Donuts, there are fifty other brands that have failed to lead with a strategy or even create a meaningful presence on Facebook, but instead have gone right to trying to “activate” their customers. Some will eventually figure out a way to engage with the 400 million-plus members of this increasingly popular site, while others will abandon their efforts and just assume that Facebook “isn’t for them.”

Quick’n’dirty Podcast 35: Wine + Techmology = Cool

Yes, I know I misspelled the word “technology.” That wasn’t by mistake. If you don’t get the joke, maybe you should be spending more time watching Ali G. reruns

In all seriousness, yesterday was a really fun show. It started with me raving about newly discovered podcast platform/technology iPadio (H/T to friend Bryan Person). My co-host, Jennifer, hadn’t had a chance to spend much time with with the service yet but agreed with my assessment that they showed promise. Here are the four things I really like about their service:

  1. The sound quality — at least on the iPhone — is crystal clear. I assume the recording on other devices is equally good (you listen for yourself with my test podcasts).
  2. You can record offline (assuming you have an app) and upload when you have connectivity. This is good for planes or car rides where cell coverage can vary.
  3. When I decided to give iPadio a test and mentioned so on Twitter, James O’Malley (he mans their Twitter presence) immediately chimed in and offered up his help if I needed it.
  4. Their CEO, Mark Smith, followed up with me after my first test and let me know about a cool project they participated in recently.
Next up, we had one of our most interesting guests to date in Paul Mabray, chief strategy officer of Vintank. Not only is he funny (his Twitter picture says it all) but his company is bringing technology and innovation to one of the oldest industries in the world, namely, wine.
During our 25 minute conversation, Paul covered some of the reasons why it’s tricky to innovate in the wine industry including state regulations, dirth of eCommerce know-how and a general lack of knowledge of the end customer on the part of most of the vineyards/wineries — an issue caused by selling almost exclusively through intermediaries. As if humor and smarts weren’t enough, one of the other things that Jennifer and I really appreciated about Paul/Vintank is that he brings 16 years of wine industry experience to the table. Yup, this guy knows the space inside and out.
Speaking of smart, our featured, “Twitterer of the week” was Lon Cohen aka @Obilon. While I wasn’t as familiar with Lon as Jennifer was, he has an impressive background. His LinkedIn profile points to his background in strategic online marketing, communications, social media, SEO and content management. He also demonstrates a healthy dose of snark in his tweet stream which as anyone that follows our show knows is a huge plus in our book.
Last but not least was our point / counterpoint. This week, we talked about “what comes first, philanthropy or fans.” Jennifer talked about an example of a company that offered to send a pump to Haiti if they reached a certain number followers. Her gripe was, why not just buy the pump and send it and then encourage follower-ship based on the good deed. I argued that while it would be a noble for company X to send the pump up front, the reason they can afford to buy the pump in the first place is that they’ve made a strategic bet that the social buzz they create through this PR stunt can drive meaningful marketing results. Where Jennifer and I both agreed was that being singularly focused on quantity vs. quality of followers.
On the housekeeping front, here are three things Jennifer and I would like to to put on your radar:
  • As of April 29, Jennifer and I are going to move our “live broadcast” time from 6 PM ET / 3 PM PT to 3 PM ET / 12 PM PT. We are also trimming our show from 45 to 30 minutes (same format, just crisper).
  • We are officially looking for an unpaid intern / producer (we will pay in love, kindness and recognition). Time commitment is likely 1-2 hours / week. Ideally person has some podcast editing skills, knowledge of social networks and highly organized. If interested, DM Jennifer or me for details.
  • You can listen to past shows here, or read recaps on Jennifer’s ZDNet blog or my Stroutmeister blog.
Until next week, booyakasha.

Five Minutes of Me: Why I Like Plancast

I’ve decided to start a new podcast series. I don’t have a regular schedule but 2-3 times a week I want to start recording five minute blurbs about things I’m thinking about (or follow ups to conversations I’ve had with folks). The working title of this series is Five Minutes of Me (I’m also testing auto-syndication to this blog, Facebook and Posterous).

http://www.ipadio.com/embed/v1/embed-352×200.swf?phlogId=22858&phonecastId=23265&channelInView=WEBSITE_CHANNEL_22858&callInView=local_23265
Yesterday, I did my second installment (1st was for AdVerve on location-based services: my segment is about 43 minutes in) and it focuses on reasons I like the new “planning” application/service called Plancast. Think of it as FourSquare but in the future. Two reasons why it works for me (Kyle Flaherty take note):
  1. I follow the right people — and they happen to be people that I actually know
  2. I’ve subscribed to the digest which is essentially an itinerary of cool things to do
If you like Plancast or hate it (or fall somewhere in between), let me know why in the comments below.

How I Spent My “Geek Spring Break” (aka SXSWi)

It’s been exactly a week since South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) and I’ve had a little bit of time to let the dust settle. While this was definitely the most stressful of the three SXSWi’s I’ve been to, it was also the most professionally rewarding. Yes, you heard me right. I actually had a good time at SXSWi AND found value unlike others who complained that it’s become too big, too commercialized or too whatever. Rather than pile on, I’ll let my friends Kyle Flaherty and Jessica Smith and sister, Heather Strout’s posts speak to this point as they’ve really covered all the bases.

What I would like to cover in my recap of my experience at SXSWi are five things. I’ve bulleted the items below so you can focus on the areas you care about and skip the “who gives a shit” stuff.

  • Key take away’s from the Dachis Group’s Social Business Summit on Thursday
  • Location-based services – my $.02
  • Speaking at SXSWi and what I think it takes to get on a panel
  • The @Redsoxgnome photo meme
  • Parties: which ones I liked and why (including our very own Powered Inc. party)
SOCIAL BUSINESS SUMMIT
Fortunately or unfortunately, I was not able to attend very many panels this year. Believe it or not, it was not a lack of want on my part but rather a lack of time (thus the stress) between meetings, briefings, client events, prospecting, etc. I did have the good fortune of sitting on two panels this year (more on that under bullet three) and did get a chance to catch my friend / mentee, Sydney Owen’s panel, “GenY Wants to Work with You, Not for You (my friend, Elysa Rice was also on the panel — both did a wonderful job). I also caught the first half of Twitter founder, Evan Williams’, keynote. Like many folks, I was underwhelmed but found a little additional value in moderator, Umair Haque’s blog recap/apology.
The reason I’m providing this prologue is that I didn’t feel as bad about not attending panels during SXSWi because I had a day of great inspiration on the Thursday prior. (A big thank you to Peter Kim / Jeff Dachis for inviting me). You can visit the agenda to see a list of all the speakers and topics but the highlights for me were the breadth and depth of what was covered. In particular, I really liked Charlene Li’s (Altimeter Group) talk on open leadership, Jaime Punishill’s (Citi) discussion of operationalizing social, Kate Niederhoffer’s (Dachis Group) primer on social psychology,  Frank Eliason’s (Comcast) focus on social’s impact on cultural change and finally Jackie Huba’s (Ants Eye View) highlighting of why the “one percent-ers” matter. Don’t get me wrong, all of the speakers were fantastic… these just happen to be the handful that really stood out.
LOCATION-BASED SERVICES

One of the biggest takeaways for me at SXSWi is that location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla are here to stay. Those two may or may not be the dominant players in the long run (I like both companies but my money is on Facebook for winning this game in the long run) but they definitely got their day in the sun at SXSWi. Author, Alan Wolk and 140 Conference founder, Jeff Pulver, shared some interesting thoughts here and here on what LBS lack and why they played a bigger role at SXSWi than Twitter.

As someone that’s spent more time than is healthy experimenting with location-based services — I started using Brightkite in early 2008 — I had the opportunity to experience the good, the bad and the ugly of Gowalla and Foursquare during SXSWi. For one, Gowalla and FourSquare helped me find out where the best panels, lunches, dinners and parties were during the conference. In particular, a simple check up on the whereabouts of Mssrs. Chris Heueur, Brett Petersel, David Armano or Robert Scoble more often than not let me know where the action was.

Using FourSquare and Gowalla was also particularly useful in trying to track down friends and colleagues when we got separated (which happened fairly often). Lastly, I was also able to figure out who was in the blogger’s lounge at any given time (to that end, big ups to Porter Novelli, TechSet, Brian Solis, Stephanie Agresta and Windows for making the BL possible). The Bloggers’ Lounge continues to be one of my favorite places to hang out during SXSWi.

On the bad/ugly side of LBS, there are privacy issues that are starting to arise. For one. FourSquare has developed a feature that automatically includes other “friends” that are checked into a common location when a user decides to cross-post on Twitter. Normally, this is no big deal but increasingly is starting to cause confusion or even trouble. As an example, think about this use case… I check into the Iron Cactus for lunch. As the day wears on, I get caught up with work and forget to check into another location. At 3:30, a female friend that I’m connected with on FourSquare checks into the Iron Cactus and says “doing tequila shots.” The problem is, unknowingly the aforementioned female friend’s tweet might look something like this, “@SusieQue is doing tequila shots w/ @aaronstrout at Iron Cactus (225 Fourth Street http://4sq.com/4r8adF).” While I may, or may not care
whether I’m being accused of doing tequila shots, if my boss and/or wife are watching Twitter, they might see this tweet and wonder, “what the hell is Aaron doing with Susie Que at 3:30 in the afternoon when he should be working?

On a side note, one of the bright spots of SXSWi for me was a social network / platform called Plancast. I covered this with my podcast partner, Jennifer Leggio, a few weeks ago on the Quick-n-Dirty podcast show and will be interviewing their CEO, Mark Hendrickson sometime in April. Even if you are not socially inclined, it is a great way to discover events (and keep track of events that you have signed up for). You can also find out more from the interview that my friend, Simon Salt, did with Mark here.

SPEAKING AT SXSWi / GETTING ON A PANEL

As I mentioned earlier, this was my third year attending SXSWi. My first year here, I was just in awe of actually coming and did not submit for any panels. For 2009, I submitted for a panel that made it all the way to the finals before being nixed. And then there was this year. I only submitted one panel and that was on behalf of my colleague, Kathy Warren. It was to include Kodak client, Tom Hoehn, and friends, Shawn Morton of Nationwide and Peter Fasano of Coke. The focus was how businesses were generating ROI using social (I mean, who would want to see that panel, right?) Unfortunately, that panel did not make the cut but my friend, Tim Walker’s panel on using sports metaphors in social did. I was also lucky enough to be asked to join a panel on Digital Identity Theft by my friend Beth Gwazdosky at CSIdentity.

What’s the moral of this story? One, it’s an arbitrary process from what I can tell and two, make friends with people who have a good shot of getting their panels approved. Oh, and keep trying because as frustrating as it is to submit and fail, you don’t have a shot (unless you’ve got the right friends) unless you try. For summaries of the Digital Identity Theft panel I did with Bill Morrow, see my sister’s post (referenced earlier). My friend, Christine Major, did a nice wrap up of the sports metaphor panel that Tim and Kyle Flaherty were kind enough to include me on.

THE REDSOX GNOME

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and that couldn’t be more true when it came to this year’s photo meme. For those who are wondering “what’s up with the gnome,” the short version of the story is that my good friend, Jim Storer (the photographer responsible for many of the photos in this post) decided to start a photo meme last year called, Sad, Mad, Glad. This year, our goal was to one-up that meme so we solicited suggestions from Twitter. Former colleague, Susan Koutalakis, teed up the idea of taking pictures with the Red Sox Gnome ala Travelocity. I’ve included a few of my favorites below but be sure to head over to Jim’s Flickr stream to see all the victims participants in the meme.


THE PARTIES

I could wax poetic on this last topic for a while. But I won’t. Mainly because I don’t want to reinforce the perception that SXSWi is all about the parties. Don’t get me wrong, there are A LOT of parties. But for anyone that really “gets it,” you realize that the networking is what’s important and that can happen in a number of different ways including breakfasts, hallway conversations, the Blogger’s Lounge, car rides to the Salt Lick, etc.

With that said, here are my five favorite parties/events from SXSWi in no particular order:

  • Allhat II at Guero’s (thrown by Richard Binhammer and David Armano): Great people, great venue, great music and great food. Have I used the adjective “great” enough yet? (photos)
  • Firefly Fandango at Molotov (thrown by Jason Falls, Tim Hayden, Tom Martin and Chillie Falls): all the right people on a roof deck with enough room to move around. (photos)
  • TechSet at Speakeasy (thrown by Brian Solis and Steph Agresta): this party always tends to be one of the “Bells of the Ball.” Fun accessories like Kyle Flaherty’s boa (pictured at the top of this post) and funky white shades. Got a little crowded mid-way through but fun nonetheless. (photos)
  • Flash Party at Belmont (inspired by Chris Heuer): sometimes the best parties are the ones that happen spontaneously. I think this was the most fun because of who showed up and that it wasn’t on anyone’s calendar. Chris just made it happen. (photos)
  • The Powered Party at Scholz Garten (thrown by my company, Powered — props to Drillteam and Beth Lopez for making this party kick ass): If the venue, people, food, weather etc. made Allhat II great, add actor/comedian, Brian Posehn, to the mix and you had a perfect mix of funny and chemistry. Thank you to everyone that showed up for this party. It meant a lot to me/us. (photos)
  • Honorable mention: The group that Peter Kim and I got together at the Salt Lick. (photos)
  • Also honorable mention: the Chevy party thrown by Christopher Barger at the Salt Lick. And yes, I got my share of BBQ during SXSWi as evidenced by the Porky badge I earned as a result on FourSquare.
So that’s a wrap. Longer than I wanted it to be but missing a bunch of things I wanted to talk about. Isn’t that always the way. An additional shout out to some of my peeps that I hung out with during SXSW including: Joe Jaffe, Doug Wick, Bill Fanning, Sydney OwenMason Nelder, Zena Weist, Adam Cohen, Selina McCusker, Zane AvetonBill Johnston, Jaime Punishill, Anna O’Brien, Frank Eliason, Deb Micek, Aaron Brazell, D’Ann Faught, Alexa Scordato, Keith Burtis, Rocky Barbanica, Brett Petersel, Reem Abeidoh, Heather Elias, Hadley Stern, Martha Hayward, David Smutek, Liz Phillips, Marlooz Veldhuisen, Jeremy Tanner, Maria Ogneva, Greg Narain, Ginger Wilcox, Derek Overbey, Andy Kaufman, Jeremiah Owyang, David Berkowitz, Maggie Fox, Lionel Menchaca, Greg Matthews, Shawn Morton, Chuck Hemann, Bryan Person and about a thousand other people I’m going to piss off by not mentioning here.
Special thanks to Jim Storer for being my partner in crime and making the conference incrementally more fun with all his awesome photos. And special, special thanks to my loving and supportive wife, Melanie and my three awesome children for letting me be an absentee husband/dad for nearly six days.